Sure, wireless headphones exist so you can fully immerse yourself in your favorite music, sans cords, but when you want to share the beats with everyone, the best Bluetooth speakers are the tiny boxes you’ll need to to bring the party wherever you want and whenever you want. These days, almost every audio company worth its salt has released several portable iterations. They’ve figured out how to make them louder without sounding worse, easier to connect with less signal latency, more water-resistant, and less breakable. In fact, portable Bluetooth speakers are getting so good that lots of makers have pivoted to developing multiroom wireless speaker systems (like the good folks at Sonos) and smart speakers with voice assistants.
That’s actually a very good thing for you, a person who wants something that will connect to your smartphone or laptop instantaneously and make whatever music/podcast/audiobook you need to listen to right now sound exactly as it’s supposed to sound. Something that might not have ever been submitted for a design award, but also that wouldn’t embarrass you when unleashed at a casual park hang. There are tons of Bluetooth speakers available right now that would fit your criteria. And they aren’t that expensive.
How We Tested
We tested over 30 speakers, finding several that rise above the rest. And after a long day unboxing, charging, and listening to all of them in our offices, followed by weeks of real-world testing (you can’t really know a speaker until you’ve tossed it into a tote bag and spilled coffee on it) we’ve found several that rise above the rest. It’s a mixture of functional speakers you can throw into a pool without care to more delicate speakers that could actually win a design award. But across the range, they have one thing in common: They sound amazing. Without any further ado, here are our top picks for the best Bluetooth speakers that audiophiles can buy in 2023.
The Best Bluetooth Speakers, at a Glance
Pump up the jams right the hell now. Here are all of our favorite Bluetooth speakers, without diving into all the bells and whistles.
- The Best Bluetooth Speaker, Overall: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3, $100
- The Best Affordable Bluetooth Speaker: Tribit StormBox, $78
- The Best Upgrade Bluetooth Speaker: Ultimate Ears Hyperboom, $450
- The Best Smart Speaker with Bluetooth: Sonos Move, $399
- The Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker: Bang and Olufsen Beoplay A1, $250
- The Best Bluetooth Speaker for Personal Use: JBL Charge 5, $140
- The Best Bluetooth Speaker for the Poolside: Sonos Roam, $179
- The Best Bluetooth Speaker for Parties: Marshall Middleton, $300
- The Best Bluetooth Speaker with Lights: Balmuda Speaker, $399
The Best Bluetooth Speaker, Overall: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3
The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom line might look a bit weird at first glance. Where most Bluetooth speakers are some sort of riff on a rectangular prism or tall cylinder, Wonderbooms are squat and globular. They’re what you’d get if you took a dodgeballs and kind of squashed the top and bottom. This doesn’t make the best design for a speaker: They’re too wide for a cup holder and the water bottle pocket of most backpacks. But what you lose in form, you gain in basically everything else.
A couple years ago, the Wonderboom 2 emerged as the clear favorite among the many Bluetooth speakers of its size that we tested for its exceptional sound quality and compact, durable design. Many of its peers struggled to render a balanced sound that was clean across the frequency spectrum. The Wonderboom 2 didn’t have this problem. Even when we played it at high volume (which is very loud), we found it more than capable of translating any song crisply and cleanly, regardless of the genre or instrumentation. Notes on the higher end all sounded clear and present, without any distracting hiss. And the lower end notes were present and full, but not blown out. You can even download the company’s app to mess around with the EQ and fine-tune your preferences.
In late 2022, Ultimate Ears released a follow-up, the Wonderboom 3, that took the best features of its predecessors and dialed them up. The speaker is IP67-certified, which means that it’s totally enclosed from dust and debris, plus protected from immersion in water that’s up to a meter deep. So if you’re going too hard with your speaker at a pool party and it tumbles in, it’s going to keep playing. It’s also equipped with a few other useful software features like an ability to sync with other Wonderboom models for a bigger, fuller sound. Best of all is the speaker’s extra long battery life: 14 hours of juice to power you through a beach hang, pool party, or a BBQ—and then some.
The Best Budget Bluetooth Speaker: Tribit StormBox
If you want a speaker with similar perks to the Wonderboom, but with an oblong shape and a longer battery life, consider the Tribit StormBox. It doesn’t have quite the same stellar acoustics as our top pick, but the bass response is good and its highs are punchy (though you should avoid its “XBass” mode unless you like overly boomy and distorted low notes). A delicate song like Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” sounds kind of crunchy played through its sound system, especially if you’re paying attention to the high-hat cymbals. Head to head, most would likely choose the Wonderboom, but if you’re not an audio nut, the quality here is just fine.
The StormBox is another Bluetooth speaker that can handle full immersion in water up to a meter’s depth, and pairs up with another speaker if you happen to own two. The biggest difference is its tall, thin, shape (plus its long attachment hook) that makes it easy to slide easily into a bottle pocket, prop itself up in the cup holder of your car, or dangle from surfaces.
The Best Upgrade Bluetooth Speaker: Ultimate Ears Hyperboom
Ultimate Ears Hyperboom
This Hyperboom speaker is absurdly large and fun, but truth be told, it can only be classified as a “portable” speaker if you have a car. It weighs a whopping 13 pounds (so it’s closer in spirit to a boombox), but performs admirably in a party setting and gets way loud when you need it to. With a 24-hour battery life, you can keep blasting that epic playlist of yours for an entire day before it conks out for a recharge. Like our favorite Ultimate Ears pick, it can also be paired with other speakers for some surround-sound effects.
Its size may have you believe it’s a bass-heavy speaker, and you’d be right, but it also offers well-balanced sound through its 270-degrees of audio. That’s right—unlike the 360-degree sound that Ultimate Ears is known for—the rectangular design of the Hyperboom only allows for 270-degrees of sound. That means it’s better setup against a wall rather than being the centerpiece of the party, but the adaptive EQ of the speaker also means that the Hyperboom will automatically adapt sound to wherever it’s placed.
The Best Smart Speaker with Bluetooth: Sonos Move
Our favorite portable, multi-room Bluetooth speaker the last couple years running has been the Sonos Move. It functions well indoors and outdoors, with lively acoustics and really resonant bass, thanks to the brand’s Auto Trueplay feature that optimizes sound for the listener’s environment. You’ll notice this immediately when you bring the speaker into an echo-y room. After 30 seconds, you’ll be able to hear the sound profile of the Move actually change in real-time.
Beyond Bluetooth, the Sonos Move actually functions primarily as a Wi-Fi speaker within the Sonos ecosystem. That may sound complicated, but it’s a breeze to set up and connect to your home network. Streaming services (like Spotify) will play through the speaker, and the Move will show up as an AirPlay 2-compatible device for broadcasting audio directly from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to the speaker.
The Sonos Move also incorporates a built-in microphone, so you can verbally command Alexa or the Google Assistant to play music or adjust your smart home device settings. (If this freaks you out, muting the microphone takes one press of a button.) The only downside is that the speaker is a little bit heavier, at 6.6 pounds, than other portable speakers on this list. You can still tote it to the park, but it’s certainly going to be an arm day for you. Still, the sleek design and 10-hour battery life make the speaker well worth the hassle. (Want to learn more about it? Check out our in-depth review.)
The Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker: Bang and Olufsen Beoplay A1
Bang and Olufsen Beoplay A1 (2nd generation)
Most Bluetooth speakers are basically a range of colored tubes or boxes, with little to offer aesthetically. Speakers from Bang & Olufsen, on the other hand, feature a lot of lovely design touches that make them look more like art pieces. For its petite size, the Beoplay A1 offers some truly impressive audio, with its clear tones and big sound profile, all wrapped up in a sleek design that helps justify the elevated price point. The handsome leather strap makes you actually want to take this on the road, and because of its IP67 rating, you can hang it in the shower and drown your sorrows in a Lucy Dacus playlist. Plus, with built-in Amazon Alexa functionality, the Beoplay A1 lets you shout out when you want to skip a song if you’re going hands-free. Its hockey puck-like shape is more than just about aesthetics, too. The speaker offers immersive 360-degree sound, so everyone in the park hang gets a taste of the sharp acoustics.
The Best Bluetooth Speaker for Outdoor Parties: Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3
Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3
While the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 and Tribit StormBox are excellent Bluetooth speakers, neither can really generate the kind of sound you might need for a larger outdoor gathering. Throwing a Bushwick rooftop rager? We recommend the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3. The Megaboom 3 has a lot of the same advantages of the Wonderboom 3—great sound, water resistance, the same tip-top acoustics, adjustable EQ, and pairing capabilities—in a much bigger, thinner package.
Compared to our top Wonderboom pick, the Megaboom 3 is a bit gentler on the bass, but not in a bad way. You won’t experience the same face melting vibrations of a subwoofer, but you’ll still be able to hear and feel every note. Plus, the higher frequencies on the speaker sound wonderful, perfectly tuned, and not distorted, even when you’re blasting music over the din of a raucous party. Cue up the speaker’s “PartyUp” setting to combine forces with other Megaboom models and double or triple up your sound.
The Best Bluetooth Speaker for Personal Use: JBL Charge 5
JBL Charge 5
If you want something powerful like the Megaboom, but don’t entertain much, the JBL Charge 5 is another solid contender. It has a slightly bigger bass response, but we found its overall sound to be a little underwhelming. You only hear the Charge 5 mostly clearly when you’re right in front of it. If you’re just planning to bump your tunes from the comfort of your couch, that’s fine—but this is not a party speaker, by any means.
We liked the JBL Charge 5’s full bass response. We also didn’t hear any sibilance in the high end that would make listening to the speaker over a long period of time unpleasant. But we found that anything in the mid-range, like male vocals and most instruments, sounded just a little dull—especially when compared to the same ones played from the Megaboom.
Still, it’s waterproof and supports PartyBoost, which let you pair the speakers with other JBLs to create a fuller soundscape. Plus, as you may have guessed from the name, there’s a USB output that allows it to charge your smartphone, so your playlist never has to die when your phone battery does.
The Best Take-Everywhere Bluetooth Speaker: Sonos Roam
We were really taken by the crisp sound quality of the Roam when it launched in 2021. Then again, why would we have expected anything less from the audio genies at Sonos? We’ve taken this little thing everywhere, from outdoor adventures to pool-side hangs, which is especially easy considering its light weight and slim profile. The IP67 rating is more than equipped to handle some cannonballs, so long as you don’t let it swim there for longer than 30 minutes (or let it sink deeper than three feet). We’ve even used the Roam to connect to a Nintendo Switch, and if you’ve never rocked out to the banger that is the Super Mario Kart 8 soundtrack, then you aren’t living life to its fullest.
The Best Bluetooth Speaker with Lights: Balmuda Speaker
Balmuda’s not exactly known for its audio products—the Japanese brand’s most famous for its $300 toaster oven— but we have to admit that it makes a pretty impressive speaker. We found it to be a little light in its bass range, but it really excels at accentuating vocal-heavy tracks like SZA’s “Gone Girl” or Maggie Rogers’ “Alaska.” Snaps, pops, and transcendent falsettos come out so crisp and clean that you almost feel like you’re getting an intimate concert, which we’re chalking up to the speaker’s 360-degree sound. Like the Anker Soundcore Flare 2 below, the Balmuda speaker also offers a vibey LED light show that’s synced up to what you’re listening, and does a great job of following along with your music. Its battery is pretty weak compared to everything else on this list, and there’s no water resistance baked in, but it’s still a mighty fine keep-at-home speaker.
4 More Speakers We Like
Chances are, you’ve spotted Marshall out at a live music show. The brand’s amps are synonymous with rock music, and its recently released Middleton Bluetooth speaker feels like its condenses those epic sounds into something you can port nto your studio apartment. The mid-sized speaker offers beefy sound like the Megaboom, whether you’re bumping to the heavy bass of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” or the high-throttle thrash of Metallica’s “Whiplash” (which just so happens to include the lyrics: “Here on stage, the Marshall noise is piercing through your ears.”)
One of the best parts about the speaker is that you can actually control the bass and treble through controls on the speaker, so you never need to fuss with yet another app. It’s a feature borrowed from Marshall’s guitar amps that makes it a killer party speaker, though it’s certainly a price hike from the Megaboom (which is why we’d still recommend that one as our top pick). If you decide to get another of these puppies, you can pair them together for even bigger and better sound. Hell, if you buy a ton of Middletons, build a literal wall of noise to piss off the neighbors in true rock n’roll spirit.
JBL Go 3
Three iterations into the JBL Go series, we get this highly durable, bass-heavy bopper that costs just under $50. The pocket-sized Go 3 features front-firing speakers, so it’s not exactly going to fill a room, but it’s compact enough to act as a trustworthy sidekick on the road. It’s also available in a handful of bold hues that help it stand out despite its petite size. You’re a bit limited to what you can control directly from the speaker—volume, pause, play, and skip—but that’s not a surprise since there’s really no room to put more buttons on the Go 3. We also wish it had longer battery life, but hey, for a $40 speaker blessed with JBL’s superior sound quality, how much can you really ask for?
Anker Soundcore Flare 2
If the Soundcore Flare 2 looks like it was built for a rave, that’s because it is (those party lights are its giveaway). That light show is a little corny, like something you’d expect from a college kid’s dorm room, but it can be fun for a few minutes. And if you really are a student, or just someone on a shoestring budget, you’ll appreciate the sound quality and water resistance that come with your budget speaker. Its IPX7 means it’s as water-resistant as speakers rated IP67, but it lacks the testing to determine that the speaker is actually dust-proof. That means the Soundcore Flare 2 can perform perfectly fine by the pool, but maybe don’t take it to the beach where sand can mess it up. The speaker offers 360-degree sound, but if you’re hoping for more, you can link up to 100 (!) of these together for some true party vibes.
Bose SoundLink Flex
If you know Bose, you know crisp, clear audio quality is the brand’s whole thing, and its SoundLink Flex lives up to that sterling reputation: It’s an intuitive little speaker that manages to pack a decent amount of bass-heavy notes into a small package. One cool feature is that it automatically detects its orientation—whether it’s upright, on its side, or so on—and will adjust its EQ to best suit its environment. At 1.3 pounds, it’s one of the lightest options on this list and its IP67 rating means it’s perfectly capable of performing well in the great outdoors, despite dust or rain. Someone who’s constantly on the road will love having this speaker on hand because it’s so easy to toss into a checked or carry-on bag, without adding much weight or bulk.